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Women’s Center invites public in face of eviction

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Less than a week before the borough’s only full-service women’s center was scheduled to be ousted from its Fort Totten headquarters, the group has invited the community to a weekend open house.

In a notice publicizing the open house that was mailed out to the community last week, the Queens Women’s Center urged the public to “learn about our progress in our battle to save our home.”

Facing a seemingly final Feb. 28 eviction deadline — its third such deadline since December — from the city’s Corporation Counsel, the Queens Women’s Center appears to be on the verge of losing its fight to stay at the Bayside fort.

Ann Jawin, founder of the Queens Women’s Center, said this weekend’s event will give the public a change to learn about the center’s work.

“We think it would be educational,” Jawin said. The open house would also be an opportunity for people “to see the empty buildings right next to us,” she said.

Fort Totten, decommissioned by the U.S. Army in 1995, was to be taken over by the city last month and split between the Fire and Parks departments. Several nonprofits occupy buildings at the Civil War-era fort, but only the Queens Women’s Center has received an eviction notice.

The Queens Women’s Center has been headquartered in Building 401 at Totten since 1997, but in November it received eviction notice from the city Fire Department that it must leave the premises by Dec. 13. After obtaining a lawyer, the women’s center got a new eviction deadline of Jan. 15 but did not leave.

Jawin said the city’s Corporation Counsel told her to move the group by Feb. 28.

Despite the looming deadline the Queens Women’s Center’s open house was scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23, and Sunday, Feb. 24, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. According to the notice, a special program will be held Saturday at 3 p.m.

The Queens Women’s Center was founded in 1987 and provides a range of services to women and families, including job training, domestic violence programs, counseling, funding and training for women who want to start their own business, among other things.

Though the Queens Women’s Center also has space at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, Jawin has said the group cannot duplicate its Fort Totten programs there because of a lack of space.

Jawin said Monday she has begun to question why the Fire Department needs her building.

“The Fire Department has 55 buildings and so many buildings aren’t used,” she said. “Why this intensity? Why all this effort to get us out when there are so many buildings?”

Getting space in other parts of Queens is difficult, said Jawin, who learned from experience when Totten was closed to the community immediately following Sept. 11.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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